November 1, 2014
Less Phil, Tastes Grate
Sadly our bass player was not plugged into the board on this evening so all we hear of him is what bleeds into the drum or vocal mics.
Normally that would be a deal breaker for me but he's just barely audible enough such that I was able to take in the entire show in one sitting. Okay, I was laying on the couch for most of it but I wasn't sleeping.
If Phil had been plugged into the board, I think this show would be more highly revered because the harmonies on the vocals are pretty much as great as they ever get here and all the jams (Bird Song, Playin', Dark Star) are excellent. As it stands, Bill's drumming is perhaps more audible than usual.
A rare vocal flub in Sugaree doesn't seem to phase the band too badly.
Keith plays the piano and also plenty of rhodes, with some interesting pedal effects.
The Dark Star is all light, no darkness. It's a real pity that Phil wasn't plugged into the board. Did I mention that already?
February 4, 2011
The first set isn't anything special, especially after listening to day after day of the Europe shows. Nice Bird Song and China->Rider but nothing else too earth shaking.
The Playin is undoubtedly amazing but more thatn the jam, listen how tight the actual song portion is. Donna especially is bang on which is good cause when she's off... yikes (If you like this Playin', check out my new favourite version from2/22/74 - you won't be disappointed!). The set slows down a bit until that monster Truckin', excellently jammed with a hint of Nobody's Fault. The Dark Star is gorgeous and cause me audio hallucinations. I could at times hear teases of Sugar Mag, the Playin' theme and even Throwing Stones (??). The Sugar Mag that follows is an amazing, energetic rendition that I actually went back and listened to it a second time. Sing Me Back Home is gorgeous and again Donna sounds really good! I wish they played this song more.
This show's worth a good listen at least for the second set alone.
December 29, 2008
BEST PLAYIN' EVER!!!
Fwiw, this is the Charlie Miller remaster. I would say that there is little if any improvement over the previously circulating source of the 2nd set. That said, this source contains the whole show so it's the obvious choice of the 2 available.
Promised Land limps out of the gate but both Jerry and Bob give the last lyrics the kind of excited extra umph that lets you know they are ready to go on this night. The SBD is wobbly, fading in and out a bit in the early going. There is a considerable hiss throughout, however it is tied to the source and not the mix. Just pull down the highs on your media player or stereo, boost the volume, and you're all set. The mix itself is actually excellent. The vocals are just where they need to be and each instrument is blended perfectly with the others, letting the listener focus on any player individually, or everyone at once.
Early Sugarees are pretty much a dime a dozen, still it's Sugaree, and that makes it beautiful. Jerry's voice is crisp and passionate here, giving this version a great full bodied presence. Jer is clearly feeling very confident singing on this night, moving from soft and touching to dirty road rock and roll without missing a beat.
In Bobby McGee we again see Jerry bringing the song to a higher level just with his harmonizing. He also displays some very purposeful playing during the solo. It is such a perfectly crafted solo it is as if it was composed years before and practiced ad nauseam. It's worth noting now that Billy seems to be ready to explode out of his skin. It is a rare thing when you can pick up Billy's excitement to fly during Bobby McGee. By the 2nd minute of Don't Ease it's clear that he is on fire, providing a foot thumping shuffle beat that among other things has begun to pull Phil in. You can hear him dropping a few off-beat notes, playing off Bill's hits. All of these things add up to equal a potential monster night from the boys. Overall the Don't Ease is very average, nothing outstanding at all. Mexicali is pretty standard, but the band is now extremely tight leaving no stone unturned. This Bird Song is no 10/18/72 or 11/19/72, but then, what is. Considering the fervent pace laid down during the first 5 tunes, I consider it an accomplishment to lay back and croon one out the way they do here. Very relaxed playing throughout, no big bangs, but plenty of wind in your hair. The boys waste no time in picking the pace back up and pushing it even harder. This Big River is brimming with energy. Unfortunately there is a pretty significant cut here that chops off the rest of Big River and picks up at "You know you bound to wind up dead" in Tenn Jed. This version is standard 72 fare. BIODTL is standard stuff as well. The B.E. Women is a pretty version, nice tempo for 72. El Paso is standard, but Jerry's playing is worth mentioning, he is flying over the neck of the guitar with extreme dexterity. All of that is incidental; from this point on is the Grateful Dead at the best.
The 1st set has been very well played and was a fun listen, but nothing outstanding. Things pick up during this China Cat. The transition jam is a little extra cool due to Jerry being up higher in the mix than usual. He plays some wild stuff behind bob over the years but it gets lost for the most part. Here we get to hear it loud and clear, and we are treated to some extra sweetness from jerry before they kick off Rider. Jerry rips a nice solo in Rider. They close out the set with a very fun Casey Jones. All in all a pretty kick-ass 1st set. Standard for 72. There were little hints of brilliance throughout, and in the 2nd set we all know what those moments can turn into.
They open Set 2 with Playin'. They dispatch with the composed portion and hurl themselves off the cliff almost immediately. By the 4th minute they have already touched one theme and moved on to another. By the 6th minute they are flying. At 6:30 they quickly peak and push forward and by 7:05 they have built and moved on 2 more formations. I would do a minute by minute break down, but it's worthless with this version. Too much happens to quickly, simply said, every second is extraordinary. Right around the 10 minute mark Jerry teases the Playin' theme, for all of 5 notes, and then off to the races again.
I'd be hard pressed to name another jam that matches this one for sustained intensity. Jerry is riffing at an unbelievable pace, but what really blows me away is what the band is accomplishing in the background. The players create a platform for Jerry that has more in common with mid-late 60s improvisational jazz than other GD jams of the period. At the 12 minute mark they bring in down, very far down, touch on the Playin' theme and then space out around it. At 14:40 Jerry speeds up over the quiet space, still bouncing off the Playin' theme, coming back to it, and then bouncing off again. As the 16th minute starts, the band starts a slow build, at least in terms of refocusing, they remain quietly aggressive. The 18th minute belongs to Phil. He has been playing brilliantly for most of the show but has been very content in a supporting role. The 18th minute and on into the 19th are all Phil and Billy. Extremely hot playing from the 2 of them with the rest of the band backing off. Then at 20:28 Phil brings back something he was exploring only a minute early to kick the band back into high gear. Their transition to total managed chaos is indiscernible. All of a sudden you are back in the fire...and then Jerry absolutely takes over. The last 5 or so minutes are bliss. I never thought I'd be able to emphatically support one version of Playin as best ever. With over 500 out there, with 150 coming between 72-74 I just assumed that there were too many great ones unique from all the others that finding one that stood out and dwarfed the rest was an impossibility. This Playin' has me rethinking that assumption.
And oh yea, that was the 2nd set opener...jeepers!.
Wondering if Garcia was feeling the adrenaline after that Playin’…well just give the Deal that follows a listen and you’ll have your answer. I don’t know of any other pre-76 version of the song that features the emotion and power of this one. Easily my favorite Deal before they re-tooled it and made it a show stopping set closer. With the huge numbers in this second set, it’s amazing that Deal requires inclusion in the shows highlights, but it does. The Me & My Uncle is pretty standard, although a couple of Jer’s licks are anything but. I would suggest that it would’ve made more sense to drop in a Brokedown following that scathing Playin’, but it isn’t exactly out of place here either. It’s a decent Brokedown, although definitely on the bottom rung of 72 versions. There is a cut at the end and miss out on “I Love you more than words can tell…”
Up next the boys kick off the meat of the set with Truckin’. 72 was the year Truckin’ grew up into the mega-tune it was to become in 73-74. There were a handful of big ones in 72, and some that hearkened back to 71 when they ran 6-8 minutes. This one falls in the middle. For a mid-range Truckin’, this one rocks. Very powerful attacks from Jerry throughout the solo. A few seconds into the 8th minute Jerry plays around with a nobody’s fault jam briefly and then revisits the theme a couple of times over the next minute, never going into it fully, content to circle the borders . A slow jam out of Truckin’, very quietly, becomes the intro jam to Dark Star.
Around the mid 7th minute Weir teases the opening riff of Sugar Magnolia. What a change at around 10:10, more reminiscent of turn on a dime dead from 73-74. Awesome tempo change out of nowhere. The first time I listened to this Dark Star I didn’t think much of it. The 2nd time I was somewhat impressed. Now being the 6th or 7th time, I think it is masterful. So please give it a few runs before dismissing it. Their exploration of loosely defined themes throughout the first 14 minutes may at first seem very unfocused, but after a few times through it opens up like the placement of the integral piece in the puzzle. And then a little flutter of notes from Jerry around 14:40 drops eloquently into the 1st verse. I may be mistaken but I think I heard the first chords of a tighten up jam somewhere in those first 14 minutes too, can’t recall around when though. After the 1st verse look for some ridiculous cat and mouse btw Jer and Keith, with Phil becoming ever more present. They meander a little bit over the closing minutes, but the final seconds and the segue into Sugar Magnolia is magic. Poor Bob is having puberty woes during this one. The band (Jer) absolutely rips this Sugar Mag apart. I’ll take this opportunity to reiterate, that despite Jerry being on fire all night, the all star on this night was Billy. Multiple times I thought I was listening to 2 drummers. Stellar playing throughout. They follow up Dark Star with a very nice Sing Me Back Home…a little too much Donna at times, but Jerry really belts it out and sings the whole song with classic touching emotion.
Pretty standard Saturday Night closer, marred by poor singing from Bob, and horrendous, voice cracking, cackles from Donna. Oh well, I happily give them a pass after playing a long night of music.